Introduction: How to MIG Weld Steel for Beginners
If you'd like to learn how to MIG weld steel, then this Instructable will give you the keys to unlock your MIG welding potential.
Learning to MIG weld is the best and easiest welding process for beginners due to it's simplicity. Many beginners quickly give up on learning to weld when they attempt to start out with another process like stick or TIG.
The reason is because it can take days just to learn how to strike an arc with a stick welder, and TIG is a much more advanced welding process only used for certain applications.
With MIG welding, you're simply pulling a trigger on a MIG gun. The wire feeds out and you're welding. There's no messing with stuck welding rods, or foot pedals to control the amperage. It's just straight out welding. This motivates many beginners to start with a MIG welder.
Who wants to fight with a welding process that's just simply difficult to use when you're a hobbyist or DIY enthusiast?
Below are the 10 steps I recommend you follow if you're a newbie who wants to master MIG welding fast.
Step 1: Picking the Right MIG Welder
The first mistake I see beginners make is that they go overboard on their welder's power.
Most of us don't have a shipyard in our backyard, so we won't be needing a machine that welds 1" thick steel plate. That's overboard for most home hobbyists or DIY'ers.
After all, you can always bevel thick pieces, and weld multiple passes if you need to, but realistically most newbies will do just fine with a 140 amp or 185 amp MIG welder. These can weld from 1/4" thick steel up to 1/2".
That's plenty of power, and you'll find that you probably won't use the highest amperage setting.
Make sure your MIG welder can hook a gas tank up to it. If you buy a MIG welder without this option, you'll only be able to weld using flux core wire. You'll kick yoursel later if you can't hook a gas cylinder up to it. What if you want your welds to be clean of slag, or you want to weld aluminum?
Without a gas cylinder you can't do that.
You shouldn't try to find the cheapest MIG welder available. Many of the cheap ones are cheap for a reason. They simply don't use very good parts to assemble them. You'll know it when you compare it to a pricier unit.
I think you're better off buying a used "popular" brand welder than you are buying a new cheapo.
You can find some good used units on Craigslist, or your local pawn shop for $100, and even less.
Step 2: Get the Right Welding Safety Equipment
Learning how to MIG weld steel is a lot more enjoyable when you know your safe. Needless to say, you'll need a few essentials to keep you from harm.
I've seen many images of people getting arc burn, and it's like they laid in a tanning booth for hours.
The ultra-violet rays that MIG welder produce are extremely harmful to exposed skin. You need to keep your arms covered at all times. Don't let those shows on T.V. fool you. Welding with short sleeves is a bad mistake you'll pay for later in life.
I've listed a few of the essentials, and if you can't at least do this, then I wouldn't recommend welding at all. Safety is always first!
This welding safety equipment includes:
- A welding helmet
- Welding gloves
- Leather boots or shoes
- Cotton Clothing (no wind breaker type material)
- Welding sleeves or jacket (helpful if you're welding overhead)
- And a welding curtain if kids are around
Step 3: Tuning Your MIG Welder
Learning how to MIG weld steel is a really easy process, so long as you get your welder tuned correctly.
The first thing you'll want to do before you start laying your first MIG welds is to tune it. If you don't then you'll end up with welds like the ones shown.
Your MIG welder has a setting to feed wire out at a set rate. If it's feeding too fast then the wire won't melt away at steady rate.
Instead, you'll quickly notice when you pull the trigger that you wire will stab into the weld puddle, and not melt at a consistent rate.
This means you need to turn down your wire speed. Don't worry, there is a chart inside your machine that shows you the exact settings your wire speed and voltage need to be set on.
Step 4: Angle Your Gun at About 15 Degrees
When MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding, you use a tank of shielding gas to protect the molten weld puddle from the atmosphere. Without this, you're welds will turn out very weak.
So, you want to maintain about a 15 degree travel angle when welding. This is partly so you can see the weld puddle, and partly so you're getting good gas coverage.
If you angle the MIG gun too much, the gas won't protect the weld, resulting in porosity.
The other option if you don't have a gas tank is to use what's called flux core wire. Rather than using gas to protect the puddle, the wire is filled with flux. This flux performs the same job as the gas does.
This is called flux core wire welding.
You can use this process in windy conditions, and weld on dirtier metals. Learning how to MIG weld steel with this process is easy, but you can't see the weld puddle quite as clearly.
Gas gives you the advantage of seeing the entire weld puddle with no problem
Step 5: Pull the Trigger
When you have your welder tuned, and you have the gun at the right angle then it's time to pull the trigger.
A few things will happen when you do this...
- An arc will start
- The wire will start feeding out
- Gas will begin to flow out of the nozzle
You want to make sure you're going slow enough to get a good, hot weld. Yet, don't go so slow that you burn through the metal. A rule of thumb it to weld as hot as you can without burning through.
So, depending on the metal thickness you're welding, you may travel 1" every 10 seconds.
It just really depends, though.
I would first start by welding on steel that's a bit thinner because it will get you used to seeing how the heat affects the work piece. Thick steel simply won't show you this.
Once you have mastered running a weld bead, then you can delve into welding joints.
Step 6: Pay Close Attention to Your Weld Bead Size
One way to tell if you're moving the weld bead along too fast, or too slow is by the size of the weld bead.
Aim for something similar to the image here, and you'll be ok.
You'll start to have problems when your welds come out looking really thin, and snake like. That means you're rushing the weld, and you can't get good weld penetration when you're moving too fast.
An indication that you're putting good heat into the metal is to look at the "blueing" that occurs after you've finished the weld.
Step 7: Download My FREE Beginner's Guide to MIG Welding
My name is Garrett Strong, owner of makemoneywelding.com
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When you do, for a limited time I'm giving away free access to my "Intro To MIG Welding" HD Video Course ($47 Value).
If you'd truly like to master the art of MIG welding fast, and avoid all the frustration of making mistakes on your own, then you're going to love this.